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Major John Newman Edwards, CSA, (January 4, 1839 – May 4, 1889) was famed General Joseph O. Shelby’s adjutant during the American Civil War, an author, a journalist and the founder of the Kansas City Times. He is perhaps best known for contributing to the folk hero status of outlaw Jesse James.
John N. Edwards was born in Warren County, Virginia. As a child, he learned type-setting in Front Royal, Virginia. He moved to Missouri about 1855. Settling in Lexington, Missouri, Edwards became a printer for "The Expositor".
In 1862, Confederate General Joseph O. Shelby, raised a cavalry regiment near Waverly, Missouri, in Lafayette County. Edwards joined it. In September 1863, he was appointed brigade adjutant, with the rank of major. When Shelby was promoted to command a division, Edwards became the division's adjutant. He held the position until the war ended in May 1865, when Shelby's command disbanded.
Edwards followed Shelby to Mexico. He spent the next two years in Maximilian's ill-fated Empire. Edwards obtained a land grant from Maximilian, which enabled Shelby to found the Colony of Carlotta. Edwards and ex-Governor Allen of Louisiana printed the colony's newspaper, "The Mexican Times". Edwards wrote his first book while in Mexico, "An Unwritten Leaf of the War".
Returning to Missouri in 1867, Edwards joined "The Republican" as a reporter. The following year, he began the Kansas City Times, a staunch Democratic paper in a state now ruled by the Radical Republicans. He was sympathetic in reporting the James gang's robberies, claiming they were a response to the excesses of Republican rule in Missouri. On March 28, 1871, Edwards married Mary Virginia Plattenburg. They were the parents of two sons and a daughter.
Edwards remained at the Times until 1873. He then moved to St. Louis to edit "The Dispatch". On September 4, 1875 he fought a pistol duel with Col. Emory S. Foster, editor of the "St. Louis Journal", who had accused him in print of lying. Neither man was injured.
Edwards left the Dispatch, planning to move to Santa Fe and raise sheep. However, he was persuaded by friends and family to remain in Missouri.
In 1877, Edwards published "Noted Guerrillas," a basically fictional account of Confederate partisan warfare during Civil War in Western Missouri & border Kansas. He later moved to Sedalia to become editor of "The Democrat". He next became editor of the "St. Joseph Gazette".
In 1887, Edwards returned to Kansas City as editor of the paper he had founded. Two years later, he died unexpectedly of natural causes at the age of 50. He was buried in Dover, Missouri.